Who: KELLY MOE-ROSSETTO
ART TEACHER; FOUNDER, CARDAMOM COLLECTIVE
Where: MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN
The story of what you do/your journey:
It is sort of a long winding one, as I would imagine most peoples are, but I will try and give you the abridged version! I am currently a public school art teacher, and back in school finishing my Art Teaching license. I went to undergraduate college in Missoula, Montana, and during that time spent a semester at an art school that changed my way of looking at the world, Marchutz School of Painting and Drawing in Aix-en-Provence. I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota for Art Education and International Education. After college, I taught English in France, then moved to Florence, Italy for a summer, and traveled a bit in between. Most of my teens and twenties were spent waitressing and working in retail at clothing and import stores. Retail taught me a lot about working with people and helping them find things that brought out their best self and waitressing, which is not terribly creative, did give me a lot of freedom to save money, go somewhere, and come back to do it again. I also made jewelry.
Kelly playing the festival of colors, Holi, in India
Eventually, I knew it was not what I wanted to do long term, and I got a job as the arts coordinator at the school I grew up in. I worked there for about six years, and in that time was able to go back to school for my Masters, where I studied Folk Arts and the different ways countries approach arts and education in their school systems. My graduate program was an incredible experience for me and was what solidified my desire to work in education long term. However, after the rich learning and conversations brought up in graduate school, I was still in my same job and having a hard time finding a new one in my desired field, which at the time I thought would be Study Abroad. I started a small blog to give me a creative outlet and named it Cardamom Collective for a variety of reasons. I started a book club as well and for a year we read interesting stories, had great discussions, and took engaging “field trips”.
Through this book club I was hired at Khazana, an Indian art and textiles gallery in Minneapolis, and for the next year and a half, I helped manage that, adding classes and programming surrounding the incredible pieces and stories the owner Anju had collected. I loved being in the art world again but did see the teacher in me trying to emerge. After going to India, I started my own small textile business, Cardamom Collective. A year ago, my husband and I decided to move to Milwaukee and we both left our jobs without much of a plan, other than to settle in Wisconsin for a while to be close to his family. I found myself in a very unexpected position but one that makes sense when I look back at the path I have taken, as a K-8 art teacher in a public school. It’s allowed me to use so much of what I have learned and try and enrich the content that I offer my scholars with my life experiences. It is unequivocally the hardest job I have ever had, but the most rewarding as well.
What does creativity/ being creative mean to you?
My thoughts on creativity have changed quite a bit since I was younger. I have always been involved in the arts in some form and got the messaging early on that I was a creative child. So I saw it as something you were just kind of born with, and either you were or you weren’t, like a character trait. I realize now that while we are perhaps born with these tendencies it is also something that can be taught and nurtured, a skill set. My focus in my work now is helping to create an environment where students who didn’t grow up with the opportunities I did have access to the tools that help them be creative, as well as use that lens to look at their own experiences and how they can draw from them. It is also important to me to teach them how these skills can transfer across subject matters, how being creative and approaching the way we solve problems and look at the world in a creative way can enrich what we do. Creativity is about more than just painting, sculpting or studio arts.
In my personal life, being creative means continuing to take classes, try new mediums, travel whenever possible, and put myself into new situations and experiences.
Do you consider yourself creative? If yes, has your environment (childhood experiences, current situations, etc.) help shaped your creativity?
I do consider myself creative, it is a word that has been a consistent part of my life; on report cards, in the way others describe me and in how I see myself. This is not to say that it has always been positive. I identify strongly with the idea of being a creative in some form but I think I have perhaps leaned on it too much at times. I have let it get in the way of me pushing myself in other areas when I was younger such as organization, or subjects in school that I felt (at the time) aligned less with a creative nature. Maybe that is a whole other conversation!
Having parents, teachers and a family that supported my interests were huge, and something I most likely took for granted even up until a few years ago. I just assumed most people grew up with that support for their curiosity (a word and idea that I think go hand in hand with creativity) but I realize that many children (and adults!) do not. My parents happily bought art supplies, signed me up for things I showed interest in and also showed an interest in what I was working on or learning. So support is a huge part of this, but I also think that being able to travel, to meet people from around the world, and to see art from around the world feed my creative process. Having said that, recognize that privilege and also acknowledge that it is not necessary to travel far to have rich experiences and grow creatively.
I have a hard time thinking of something that didn’t help me when I was younger because I feel in general I was able to explore many different things and benefitted from an encouraging family. The biggest creative zap that I deal with now is honestly, juggling technology and social media. It is something I use and appreciate but at the same time, takes up much more of my time than I could ever have imagined it would even relatively late in my twenties, and I often struggle with that balance. I will look up from my computer and realize it is the time I could have been ready, painting, or even just being still with tea or coffee and my thoughts. My goal this year is to focus on spending less time in these areas and more time actively engaged with my hands, mind, and inspiring mediums.
“…we can be born with creative tendencies, but they still need to be developed and nourished.”
What do you do to inspire yourself/ stay inspired? Do you have a creative practice?
I think this goes back to what I mentioned briefly above and part of what I am realizing as I get older; we can be born with creative tendencies, but they still need to be developed and nourished. I would not say I have a consistent creative practice but in the last few years, it is something I have felt I needed to start. My creative energy has been focused in different ways throughout my life, from drawing and painting, writing, playing with textiles and jewelry making. But it seems my heart and creativity have found their home in textiles and that is where I see my practice growing. I have gone through long stretches of life where I have journaled and realized I need to get back to that this year, but I do try and pick up a book from my collection or play with watercolor paints almost daily. Something else that helps to clear away the clouds is my yoga practice. I started in college when I was eighteen and it has become an important part of my life. It helps to calm the chatter and allows for ideas to flow. However, the amount of time I have dedicated to it has waned in the last few years and I am working on expanding the space in my day that I make for it. Heading into this year, carving out my own creative time is something I am committed to doing. I am an art teacher at a public school and I think it will inform not only my personal practice but also my work with students, which is so important.
The one thing that you think is important for any creative to know/ or the most important thing that you would tell your younger self? Oh, this is difficult, there is so much! I will share something that ran through my mind recently after returning back from a trip to Guatemala. As I sorted my photos, my eyes were filled with color, textiles and truly incredible experiences and all I could think was, “seek what feeds you”. So that is what I think is important to find out what that is, that feeds you, your curiosity and your creativity, and keep seeking it out. It doesn’t have to be travel, for me that is what resonates, but people can be fed in so many ways, finding out what works for you and understanding how to tap into it is half the battle!
Images 1 and 2 are courtesy of Kelly Moe-Rossetto; image 3, Studio Collectivitea. You can find Kelly on Instagram (@moeroindigo and Cardamom Collective)